Water rally draws public attention

By Country News

December’s Melbourne water rally raised awareness of farmers’ view of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan according to the rally organiser Speak up Campaign.

‘‘The feedback we got was that we were noticed by the public and by politicians,’’ campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said.

‘‘I think everyone we met became aware of the sense of depseration that we are feeling.

‘‘No, we didn’t stop Melbourne, but to do that would have required a lot more people.’’

About 300 people participated in the march down Collins St to Spring St on Friday morning, December 14.

It was designed to co-incide with the meeting of Australian government water ministers, also in Melbourne the same morning.

Mrs Scoullar got to meet with Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville.

The march attracted print, radio and television coverage, and Mrs Scoullar also discovered some people who witnessed the rally were posting on social media.

‘‘People came out of the shops and were asking us: ‘what’s going on, why are you protesting?’

‘‘I think we sent a very clear message: The basin plan is not working now and never will be.’’

As for the outcome of the ministerial meeting, Mrs Scoullar believes they have made some headway in having the ministers adopt a better neutrality test.

Projects involving the extra 450Gl of ‘up-water’ for the environment will now be required to have a positive or neutral impact on the community.

While positive about this outcome, Mrs Scoullar said there were still many flaws in the plan, and the Speak Up group would be monitoring progress to ensure the neutrality test was correctly applied by the bureaucrats.

Mrs Scoullar said she had read that ALP Senator Penny Wong had remarked that farmers needed to be paid more to recover water, however Mrs Scoullar said that indicated a misunderstanding of the issue for irrigators.

‘‘No amount of money would be sufficient compensation for the reduction in productivity. That can never be replaced.

‘‘If farmers are paid a certain amount of money, then that may be sufficient for them personally, but you cannot factor in the impact on rural economies.’’